Saturday, July 27, 2013

Solitary Confinement

In my fifties
Living as if 93
and friends all dead.
Children never call.
Phone never rings.
Only the dark places of my mind
offer their company
And I drown again
in loneliness.
Night after night
weekend after weekend
month after month
year after year.
Whatever was my crime
to be sentenced
solitary confinement?

"John Cacioppo, the director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, is the world’s leading expert on loneliness. In his landmark book, Loneliness, released in 2008, he revealed just how profoundly the epidemic of loneliness is affecting the basic functions of human physiology. He found higher levels of epinephrine, the stress hormone, in the morning urine of lonely people. Loneliness burrows deep: “When we drew blood from our older adults and analyzed their white cells,” he writes, “we found that loneliness somehow penetrated the deepest recesses of the cell to alter the way genes were being expressed.” Loneliness affects not only the brain, then, but the basic process of DNA transcription. When you are lonely, your whole body is lonely." --Stephen Marche, The Atlantic.

The blue light of the clock
glows like the moon
in my room.
Thoughts wake me
every hour.
I turn to see the glowing numbers
over and over again.
I close my eyes and breathe
hoping to smell patchouli and rose
from the pillow you once lay your head upon.
So many losses over the years
each taking a piece of my heart
before there has been time for healing.
Now time feels suspended
Where am I?
Why am I?
And who really cares?

A recent study by AARP reported that in 2010, 35% of people over 45 were chronically lonely while just ten years earlier the number was 20%. Some say the advent of social media has made us more lonely, creating superficial connections that do not feed the need for deeper human relationship. Kind of like our diets. We can't eat just one cookie, it must be five or ten or more...we are never satisfied because we are literally starving for nourishment.

I have met two types of single women. Type A never wants to be in a relationship again, due to prior bad relationships/marriages. A healthy, happy relationship is beyond their comprehension and they see no other reality than repeating their past. These women have given up on love. I have never heard them say they are happy being single, only that they never want to be married again.

Type B women really want love in their life and have worked hard to try and heal things about themselves that have contributed to relationships that didn't work out. They believe it is possible. And they suffer the most with their loneliness because they still dream of a loving, happy relationship.

I have never had a single person tell me I just need to learn to enjoy my own company, although many partnered folk have (none of these well-intentioned individuals have ever lived as a single person). Believe me, I know how to enjoy my own company, I am with me enough. It ain't about that. It is about connecting with another human being. It is about having someone to talk to, to go grocery shopping with, to laugh and cry with, to hug and kiss. It is about having someone to share a meal with, to care about your well-being, to get you a cup of tea when you are sick. It is about seeing a loved one when you come home. It is as simple as touching another human being. I could go on, but I hope you understand.

I am fairly well-known because of my music career, my work, my wild foods connections. I know many people. And I am very lonesome. It is not about quantity it is about quality. Inner circles. Soul connections. I don't want a Facebook life. I want real time with real friends. I want a companion. Sometimes I feel like I was plunked here by mistake, several centuries late. Is my longing for connection a thing of the past, too? I don't think so. I believe it is a common human need that partly defines who we are as a species. We are Wolves, Crows,  Caribou. We need connection with each other to feel alive.

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